It seems as if Psycho-Pass has been playing the “false main character” game in a pretty unique way – and thank goodness for that.
There’s no question that Psycho-Pass is a good show – it’s interesting, full of ideas, visually striking and features a terrific cast. But more and more the one thing that seems capable of elevating above “good” is Makishima Shougo. P-P suffers from the same defects that most Urobuchi Gen shows do. It doesn’t connect emotionally like it does intellectually. Most of the characters are likable but fundamentally two-dimensional – they clearly exist to be “types” and to serve the plot more than anything else (it could be said in some ways that P-P is like the inverse of Robotics;Notes, the photo-negative – each seems strongest where the other is weakest). And more so than some Gen series this one has issues of originality that it’s too deeply entrenched in to ever really escape.
But then there’s Makishima, who exists as the one truly provocative and fascinating element in this mix. It’s a testament to Gen’s writing here that I’ve come to unabashedly root for Makishima, despite being repulsed by the sort of philosophy he in many ways embodies. “In a kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” the old Erasmus quote goes – and for all his psychopathically perfect inurement towards violence, Makishima seems to be the one person in this universe who can see the forest for the trees. Makishima was fascinating when he seemed just to be a supervillain – now that he’s looking like the hero, he’s all the more so.
There were elements of the reveal about the nature of Sibyl that were surprising, and some that were pretty predictable. “Human brains hooked up to Sibyl directly” was one of my guesses last week, and always seemed as likely as anything (“aliens” was always a long shot). And it’s seemed likely for a while that Chief Kasei was some sort of mechanized avatar of the Sibyl System that had a history with Makishima. I confess I was taken aback when she introduced herself to Shougo-kun as Touma Kouzaburou, though – as was Makishima – though the explanation certainly fits in the context it was presented. Perhaps the most interesting things Kouzabrou/Kasei said in its screed (aside from lamenting how hard it was to find a copy of Gullivers Travels) was that Sibyl had been in place for “over 50 years” and that Japan was “the only nation on Earth ruled by law” – further suggestion that Psycho-Pass’ primary message may be a broadside by Gen aimed at Japanese society itself.
I was certainly cheering for Shougo-kun as he was tearing Sibyl’s scarecrow to shreds – partly because he’s the best thing in the show and I didn’t want to see him die then and there, and partly because he’s the only person alive who knows the truth of Sibyl. That’s fortunate in that he’s also probably the one person who has the ability and inclination to try and stop it. Perhaps the most interesting question facing us is just how that’s going to play out. I can’t see Makishima and the Bureau openly working together, but I also don’t think Gen would ask us to stay invested in a cast of Investigators and Enforcers continuing to do the Devil’s work as unwitting stooges. Perhaps Makishima will subtly help from behind the scenes – it’s clear he respects Kougami as he respects few others, as witness the courtesy call he gave him after his escape from the transport plane that was carrying him towards the grim fate Sibyl had in mind for him.
I’ll give Gen credit for sighting his sights high here – if you’re aiming to be a dark social satire, Gulliver’s Travels is about as peerless as they come. I just don’t think there’s enough really original in P-P to break through the limitations holding the series back. I feel as if I’m watching Kougami, Akane and Gino re-enact the same scenes over and over – they’re basically following the same routine in every arc, with the details changed – and Masaoka is on-screen only long enough to make you wish he was there more often. As 2-D characters go they’re likable ones, though, and that keeps the series operating at a higher level than it otherwise might. And as long as Makishima is out there acting as a wildcard, it feels as if anything might potentially happen – an absolutely essential element in a series that otherwise feels quite predictable. The uncertainty over what he might do now is easily the most intriguing part of the series.